Corbis Lets Photographers Set Microstock Prices On SnapVillage

There’s a new kid in the microstock town — and it’s a kid with a big allowance and excellent connections.snapv.jpg

Corbis has launched SnapVillage, a microstock arm from one of the world’s biggest stock companies. The site is still in beta but it’s already generating plenty of interest.

In part, that’s because the new service lets photographers set their own prices. That’s clearly a huge plus for photographers who will now have the freedom to charge what they think their photos are worth. But it also raises a problem: how can you tell how much a photo is worth? We asked SnapVillage that (and other questions), and Adam Brotman, Vice President, Networks, Corbis, who has overseen the creation of the site, came back with some sound advice.

“When deciding how to price an image, photographers should browse the site and search for images that are similar to theirs,” he said. “You never want to sell from your heart but rather, see what the competition is doing and what makes sense for your image. Things that you may want to ask yourself include: is your image of higher/lesser quality and if your image fits a particular category, does it still hold its individualism that no other image has? Also consider the rarity of the image, the composition and the difficulty of reproducing it.”

That certainly sounds like the right way to gauge the value of a picture, but what if your picture is the first of its type on the new site? You’d be setting the baseline that others will follow. While you’d also pick up the early buyers, you could find that you’re pitching too low and receiving less money than buyers would have been prepared to pay. Fortunately, photographers can also change their price at any time — which means that, initially at least, they’re likely to spend some time each day on SnapVillage tracking and adjusting their prices to fit the market.

SnapVillage also assigns images a “Snappyness” rating — a score awarded to each image, pushing it higher or lower in search results. You can think of it as PageRank for pictures.

“When developing the ‘Snappyness,’ tool, we wanted something that every user could experience and enjoy for themselves,” Adam explained. “The Snappyness score is based on the number of times an image has been viewed or downloaded, commented on, emailed, selected as a favorite, etc.”

It’s still too early to say which strategies are going to push up Snappyness scores. It’s a safe bet though that as the site takes off, photographers are going to be looking for ways to improve the rankings of their images, forcing SnapVillage to battle Snappyness bombers. That should keep both photographers and SnapVillage programmers very busy.

The last point to note about SnapVillage is what it says about the stock photography marketplace. Adam described the relationship between Corbis and its low-cost offshoot as “symbiotic” and described SnapVillage’s target as “new customers, such as small businesses, freelance designers and consumers for whom licensing a stock photograph was previously unaffordable.” However, he also noted that “customers are increasingly looking for broader options across the price/quality spectrum depending on the project they’re working on. We want anyone anywhere looking to license a photograph for any creative use to find it within the Corbis Network.”

That might suggest that SnapVillage is as much an attempt to hold onto Corbis’ current customers as sweep up new low-paying buyers.

[tags] corbis, microstock, snapvillage [/tags]

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